The Right of Tenants To Organize Act

The Right of Tenants To Organize Act

Purposes:

  1. To protect the rights of tenants of multifamily dwellings to organize into tenant organizations in order that such tenants may conduct their business with landlords and managing agents more effectively
  2. To ensure that the ability of legitimate tenant organizations to carry out organizational activities is protected adequately.

Main Provisions:

  1. Recognize the rights of tenants to organize
  2. Require landlords and their agents to recognize legitimate tenant organizations and give reasonable consideration to concerns they raise
  3. Protect the right of tenants to engage in organizational activities in their building, such as distributing literature, posting information and holding meetings
  4. Require public bodies to allow legitimate tenant organizations to represent tenants before them

For more information, contact Jonathan Strong, Brandywine Tenants Association (BTA.) # 805, 4545 Connecticut Ave, N.W., Washington. D.C. 20008; (202) 362-2286; btajonathan@aol.com

Background to the Right of Tenants To Organize Act

The draft Right of Tenants To Organize Act is designed to identify and protect the right of tenants to organize. Tenant associations and tenant advocates (for example, TENAC's Jim McGrath) have endorsed this potential bill.

The bill was initially drafted after a tenant representative was confronted with Dept. of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) regulations 14 DCMR 3904.2 and 3904.3 during the course of representing a tenant association in a capital improvement case. Those provisions read:

3904.2 If a tenant association seeks to be a party, the hearing examiner shall determine the identity and number of tenants who are represented by the association.

3904.3 If a majority of the tenants are represented by the association, the association shall be listed in the caption.

In a meeting that DCRA's Rent Administrator (RA) held with tenant advocates in the spring of 2002, the tenant representative urged the RA to eliminate or revise these regulations, as unconstitutional and irrational infringements on the right of tenants to organize and advocate for their interests freely, but the RA declined. The tenant representative later challenged the regulations at the capital improvement hearing, but the Hearing Examiner felt constrained by them and required a signed authorization from every tenant the association claimed to represent.

The tenant representative then drafted the proposed bill, basing it largely on HUD regulations (24 C.F.R. Part 245, Subpart B) that he helped draft when he was employed at HUD General Counsel's Office. The draft would remedy the problems the current DCRA regulations create for associations seeking to represent tenants.

The tenant representative then circulated his draft among tenant advocates and associations for review and endorsement. During this period, he learned from members of one tenants association that their housing provider hampered their association's distribution of leaflets and flyers in their building. He learned from the president of another tenant association that his housing provider had banned his association from meeting in any of the building's common areas. While the tenant representative had not been aware of such incidents when he drafted his proposed bill, his draft would protect tenants from such heavy-handed behavior.

In December 2002, the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area (ACLU-NCA) wrote DCRA and urged it to revise and eliminate the offending regulations. In a January 2003 meeting with the tenant representative, the RA declined to revise the regulations as the ACLU-NCA had urged in its letter.